The Tour gets serious from this point onwards for Warren Gatland’s team
The British and Irish Lions face a South Africa ‘A’ side on Wednesday evening as a real test of their credentials.
Wins over Japan and Sigma Lions began the Tour, before Warren Gatland’s side produced back-to-back victories over Cell C Sharks last week. Coming up from 24 July will be three successive Test matches against the Springboks, which makes this fixture all the more enticing and important – a number of that side will feature here for South Africa A. Gatland feels that strength of opposition will be a big positive, saying: “They’ve gone as strong as they possibly can given that they still have some players unavailable. It’s going to be a good test for us. It helps our preparation immensely.”
Alun Wyn Jones has made a faster-than-expected recovery from a shoulder injury and will rejoin the squad for the Tour – but not until Thursday, meaning he won’t be involved in this game. Flanker Tom Curry and Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit are among those hoping to push their claims against South Africa ‘A’ as they look to earn a regular spot for the Lions. Follow all the live updates from the British and Irish Lions vs South Africa A here:
Lions vs South Africa A: Final push for places
The Lions have just arrived at the Cape Town Stadium, slightly later than planned. Nothing like the chaos of this time last week, though.
South Africa A have had a little more time to settle in.
Iain Henderson, Tom Curry and Louis Rees-Zammit will be out to impress coach Warren Gatland.
Lions vs South Africa A: Team news as Lions look to push Test case
This has not been the easiest Lions tour to manage for Warren Gatland, with Stuart Hogg still isolating in Johannesburg along with a couple of coaches and similar Covid issues forcing him to perhaps stray from his original intentions with selections. Still, he’ll have earmarked this game and Saturday’s clash with the Stormers as a chance to look at some combinations he thinks might have involvement come Saturday week’s fist Test.
As such, the pairing of Conor Murray and Dan Biggar at half-back feels instructive, and before Alun Wyn Jones’ visit to the shaman then Maro Itoje and Iain Henderson looked the likeliest lock pairing. With back-three and back-row places predictably competitive, messrs Navidi, Curry and Faletau, and Adams, Rees-Zammit and Watson cannot really afford an off evening against high-quality opposition – and potentially Test opposite numbers…
Lions vs South Africa A: Team news in detail
We’ll take a closer look at the Lions side selected for tonight in a moment, but let us first focus on a formidable South Africa A side selected by head coach Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus, now Director of Rugby.
And we may as well drop that A. This is a South African side comprised mostly of World Cup winners, shorn of its captain but otherwise an almost perfect pastiche of the team that so brilliantly captured that crown in Tokyo nearly two years ago. The South Africans have had just one hit out since that final against England, and their preparation has been complicated by coronavirus in the camp, which has left Nienaber in isolation and forced Erasmus, having stepped up from a day-to-day coaching role after the World Cup, to retake the reins for this fixture.
Joseph Dweba gets a debut after a season of fine vintage in Bordeaux, while reigning World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit is joined in the back row by Jasper Wiese and Marco van Staden, who will team up at Leicester next year. Morne Steyn is involved in a second Lions summer, having been so influential in the Tests twelve years ago, and Lukhanyo Am will combine his captaincy with his crucial stewardship of Nienaber’s fearsome defensive structure.
Lions vs South Africa A: Alun Wyn Jones to rejoin Lions squad
Somehow, he’s back. This Lions tour has hardly been short of news so far, and there were yet more major developments confirmed by the Lions today. After a remarkable recovery, Alun Wyn Jones has been cleared to rejoin the squad in South Africa just 18 days after dislocating his shoulder in the summer opener against Japan, and will fly to Cape Town tomorrow after proving his fitness at Wales training over the last week or so. It appears the lock will retake the Tour captaincy from Conor Murray, who skippers the side tonight, and will be very much in the mix come the Tests.
“We are delighted to welcome Alun Wyn back,” said Warren Gatland when confirming the news. “It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who knows Alun Wyn that since injuring his shoulder against Japan, he’s done everything he can to get himself back.
“He’s obviously raring to go and from what I’ve seen on video and the feedback we’ve received, he’s certainly not been holding himself back in training. It’s a massive boost for the Lions to welcome a player of Alun Wyn’s stature back.”
Lazarus-like or what? 18 days!
Lions vs South Africa ‘A’: The fourth unofficial Test
That’s right, things are getting serious as the 2021 British and Irish Lions Tour arrives in Cape Town for a much-anticipated meeting
South Africa A were always likely to provide the Lions their toughest opposition of the tour but this is an ‘A’ side in name only, with Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber’s 25-man squad very much resembling a fully-fledged Springboks team.
Indeed, while the Lions traditionally have used the fixture against their opponents’ second-string international side as the proving ground for their own potential Test starters, this year’s tweaked schedule, Coronavirus chaos and the loss of South Africa’s second Test against Georgia means this South African side is likely closer to the Test side that will run out in a week and a half than Warren Gatland’s chosen matchday squad.
Still, there will be plenty to learn as the intensity ratchets up significantly for Gatland’s side after back-to-back victories over the Sharks. Kick-off at the Cape Town Stadium is less than 90 minutes away…
Lions vs South Africa A line-ups
The teams and replacements in full:
Lions XV: 15. Anthony Watson, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Conor Murray (C); 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Iain Henderson, 6. Josh Navidi, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. Zander Fagerson, 19. Adam Beard, 20. Tadhg Beirne, 21. Sam Simmonds, 22. Gareth Davies, 23. Elliot Daly.
South Africa ‘A’ XV: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Lukhanyo Am (C), 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Sbu Nkosi, 10. Morne Steyn, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Joseph Dweba, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8. Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Coenie Oosthuizen, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20. Rynhardt Elstadt, 21. Herschel Jantjies, 22. Jesse Kriel, 23. Damian Willemse, 24. Kwagga Smith, 25. Elton Jantjies.
Lions vs South Africa A team news
Good evening and welcome to the Independent’s live coverage of the British and Irish Lions against South Africa ‘A’.
In terms of team news ahead of the game, Conor Murray will make his first start since being named Alun Wyn Jones’ replacement as British and Irish Lions captain in Wednesday’s clash with South Africa ‘A’.
Murray is reunited with Dan Biggar at half-back at Cape Town Stadium in a combination that was last seen in the 28-10 victory over Japan that launched the tour in Edinburgh last month. Murray played 29 minutes as a replacement against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday in his second appearance of the tour, his afternoon cut short by a yellow card for killing the ball.
There are only three survivors from the XV that overwhelmed the team from Natal, with Biggar, Anthony Watson and Chris Harris retaining their places. Watson makes successive starts and switches from wing to full-back to form a back three with Welsh duo Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams. Harris moves from inside to outside centre, with Bundee Aki taking the No 12 jersey.
Warren Gatland has opted for a back row of Josh Navidi, Tom Curry and Taulupe Faletau as the Lions await their toughest test of the tour having amassed a total of 181 points in three games against provincial opposition.